Hollowed Halls

Empty lecture hall.sepiaThe empty lecture hall is just one sign of redesign in higher education.  Substituting digital formats for large live lectures is the simplest and earliest stage of higher education redesign.  This process of substituting synthetic for real will take several years and there will be many failed experiments.  Whether in the mega courses offered by Coursera and their ilk, or the burgeoning number of asynchronous on-line offerings of traditional institutions, the availability of higher education is rapidly expanding beyond the traditional constraints of geography and time.  Almost all of the expansion is digital.

The good news is that most of these new digital forms are no worse – and are often better – than the large traditional lecture hall formats.  Most would agree that expanded access to higher education is a good thing for most of the planet’s population.  Daphne Koller considers it to be inappropriate to compare Coursera’s offerings [and other digital products] to face-to-face interaction with the best faculty members.  The only fair comparison is access versus no access. Continue reading

Real or Synthetic?

Haggans in PDU 130226Two recent events have brought the paradox of the 21st century campus into sharp focus for me.  First, I taught one of my courses remotely via Google Hangout.  Second, a seminar class allowed students to have an in-class conversation with a veteran Minnesota campus planner and later to engage in a discussion of Mission and Place by Kenney, Dumont and Kenney.

In the first case, technology is pulling us away from the traditional model.  In the second case, the values of the traditional model pull us back to the chairs and tables of three-dimensional space.  Technology is allowing us to reinvent many aspects of what has traditionally been the exclusive domain of higher education as they are pulled into a synthetic digital domain.  As this happens many educators are seeking and often struggling to retain the unique values of the real face-to-face experience.
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